Friday, August 31, 2007

The Kitchen Witch & the Sugar Conspiracy

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Right now it's all about waiting, kittens due in some days, so this is the perfect time to get some housework done - not a favourite pass time of mine... - and experimenting in the kitchen. There are always some vegetables to torture and maim.

Not to mention, resting those poor feet who were under a serious blister-attack earlier in the week, I've basically manage to avoid them all summer, until now, blister hell again... Which is quite bearable when you potter around the house, not quite as alright when you need to look sort of presentable in public. But with a whole lot of feet pampering TLC I'm sure they'll be as good as new shoes soon.

So what have I been up to in the kitchen lately? Apart from the fabulous carrot cake above - in which I halved both sugar, butter and the flour used and it was delicious still, it would probably have been just fine with even less too.

I do believe sugar, as well as spice, is a natural part of food, of life. But really, sometimes it doesn't feel all that far fetched to believe in some sort of sugar conspiracy... And most people could probably do without a far less amount of daily sugar rushes...

I've been cooking and enjoying a few more dishes with beetroots. Really a delicious vegetable - even if it really very much looks like a slaughterhouse in the kitchen when preparing food with it. The ultimate proof of that yes, even vegetables bleed - and so versatile, and doesn't need a whole heap of spices and herbs to bring out its flavour. And it's just so summery!
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Beetroot pancakes - rörakor in Swedish, prepared much like the Swiss dish rösti - and as always, beetroots and feta is a match made in heaven...
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A simple, but oh so good, salad with just cooked beetroots with thyme dressing sprinkled with sunflowerseeds
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Chickpea beefs, they do look very less than much, but taste great
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Cake with pecan stuffing, great idea, needs so much less sugar though... And I didn't even made it after the original sugar high recipe but used an old favourite recipe. Will have to remember that the next time I make it, and of course I'll make it again, cakes can't really get too nutty can they?
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And now it's time to try these small size white chocolate pies with limoncello marinated strawberries for Friday night dessert. I've been meaning to try this recipe for a long time, but I haven't found the just right tins for it. Still haven't, but these will do for now. And who knows, this kind of tantalizingly delicious looks might deceive...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Three Things on My Mind

If you happen to be interested in viewing private as well as public photos of Astrid Lindgren, her life and deeds - and perhaps learning a bit more about the woman who managed to capture and bring joy to millions of people, children all over the world with her inspired children's books -, this is the very last week for the exhibition at Kulturhuset. September 2nd being the last day.

In my world such a wordly deed is something to be really proud of as a Swede - so very far from some completely inconceivable misguided hoity-toity national swirl when someone has managed to score a ball in a net between two wooden sticks...

And if you, like me, find cartoonist Jan Stenmark's works immensely entertaining, there's an exhibition with samples from his collages at Kulturhuset too, more than well worth seeing. I burst out in laughter the minute I came up the escalator. Not everyone's humour for sure - and that was really evident from the visitors... - but this kind of artful, odd wittiness is really very much my kind of thing. The exhibition is on until Nov 4th, so whenever I'm in town and in need of a moodlifter I'll be sure to take the escalator up to the fourth floor.

And now I just want to welcome the sixtieth country that showed up on my NeoCounter - it's only been installed since some months back, so it sort of bugs me that I didn't discover that widget earlier... Who knows what strange and exciting visitors/countries curious me might have missed... - yesterday. So welcome, first (?) visitor from Pakistan!

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More Books...

...and I suppose they all, in their very own and varied way revolve around the thing called love. All three definitely have their merits, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them all, even though two of them really, really are two new all time favourite books.

So to keep you in suspense a bit longer I'll begin with the third one - which is actually a suspense novel, in the style of Stephen King one might say. But by a Swedish author and set in Stockholm and vicinity. Which certainly makes for rather a chilling reading experience close to home. And the cover picture sure doesn't help for shaking those feelings of discomfort off - I always made sure the book was turned upside down when I turned off the lights at night.

Well, it sort of isn't a book I recommend you to read before you go to sleep either. Oh, I'm getting a bit soft with age I guess - I used to be able to read and enjoy these kind of books without losing any sleep. Now I prefer night time books that leave me with a nice comforting feeling...

The Handling of the Undead (Hanteringen av odöda) by John Ajvide Lindqvist deals with what happens after days of heatwave in Stockholm when thousands of deads awake and once again walk the streets. The personal impact it has in different people's lives, the emotions, the grief, the sorrow with having to handle the death and re-life of loved ones. Well written, not unnecessarily gross in details, giving the chills. The ending is somewhat hazy - loose ends are said to be knot together in his third book Paperwalls/Pappersväggar - already in my pile of to-read-books - a collection of short stories.

Even if this second book was well worth reading, I do think his debut novel Let the Right One In - about school hazing, not fitting in, about vampires in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg - was a cut above. Eerily sad and lugubriously moving.

Je l'aimais (I loved him) by Anna Gavalda is of far fewer pages than the wonderful Hunting and Gathering, but it still strikes the same emotional, moving cord. This book of a mere 159 pages holds both grief, joy, regret, sadness, dreams, humour and thoughtfulness. Vital questions are asked, the answers are yours to find, which is the right thing to do, stay or go. The importance of never ever undervalue yourself as you, and not just as a part of a relationship that's falling into pieces. Fantastic book, I love Gavalda's way of writing, uncomplicated, but never simple, like the quiet conversations we have with ourselves.

I think I've discovered so many new favourite writers these past few years, it might have something to do with the fact that I finally have found my way back to enjoying what I've always loved, reading books. After having some years of my mind, my being preoccupied with other matters, I just couldn't get enough of actually being able to find happiness in books again. Starving for words, devouring them like never before, and along the way finding some amazing writers.

One of them being Swedish Maria Ernestam, I read her debut novel Caipirinha with the Death last year and it just nearly literally blew me away - extremely well-written, resembles Gavalda's style but a notch more sophisticated. The plot is so brilliantly ingenious I'm in complete awe. One day Death knocks on the door, what happens when you invite him for dinner. I implore you to find out for yourself, by reading this wonderful book!!

The second book by Ernestam, the one I finished recently, is Buster's Ears, about deep, dark family secrets and the will to survive, about life and love, roses and possible forgiveness. And how capturing aren't these opening lines; I was seven years old when I decided to kill my mother. But it wasn't until I turned 17 the decision was executed...

The slowly, and beautifully written, way small as well as large secrets are uncovered all through the book, until the last few pages really, is fascinating. Caipirinha is really a cut above - I can but imagine it must be more than extremely difficult to write a follow-on with the same kind of eloquently inventive mastery - but really, Buster's Ears are so worth reading too, more than worth. Please do!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Chocolate Factory Park

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Just outside Stockholm, in the suburb of Sundbyberg, there once was a chocolate factory. The Marabou chocolate factory. The production has since moved to the suburb of Upplands Väsby, but it was in Sundbyberg the story of the once very Swedish chocolate brand began.

Yes, a very Swedish chocolate - and really the loveliest thing you could indulge in with a glass or two of cold milk when I was a child... - but the founder was actually Norwegian. And he obviously believed that in order to make the best chocolate you had to have a good, inspirational work environment thus creating the recreational Marabou park.
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The park was designed and laid out on a hectare of land beside the chocolate factory during a period of 18 years and was opened to the public in 1955. It's not only a vast stretching and beautiful park, it also holds an admirable sculpture collection.
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The park is sort of a very well kept secret for most stockholmers I suppose. Myself I hadn't heard of it until a few years ago. And I never got around to visit until earlier this summer. It was really an oasis - even though there were some sinister looking statues lurking around there... - a lush, green, undulating, vast area somehow hidden yet very public.
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My favourite findings in the park was the huge green lawn that seemed to continue for miles, and the ingenuity of the paddling pool and my favourite sculpture of them all is definitely Gustav Vigeland's Playing Bears (top pic) - btw, if you happen to be in Norway, by all means do not miss a visit to the amazing Vigeland Sculpture Park, part of the Frogner park in the outskirts of Oslo...

There's also a Marabou annex with different art exhibitions open all year. The Marabou park itself is open daily, but only May 1st - October 1st. The entrance is free. Do visit!
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Staples & Stuff

It's been suggested that the top five list of staple goods in this particular household might, really just might, look like this - in no particular order;
  • carrots
  • lactose free milk
  • paper rolls
  • kitty litter
  • dry cat food

I have yet to consider if this is cause for concern or not. And concern for whom? I mean, isn't this all you need to take care of all those basic needs in life?


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lunch in a Slightly Colder Climate

I yield - for now - came rain Sunday afternoon and after that the weather really hasn't been able to hold its summer head high. Northward winds and it is far from pleasant. But still, I have absolutely no idea why so many people insist on wearing clothes suited for far colder climates including caps (!) and gloves (!) - and those depressingly careworn looks everywhere. And the dark Scandinavian time of the year has far from hit yet...

Ah, most certainly there is an oppressively major and general, as I've wrote before, attitude flaw towards weather. And somehow it's darn easy to be swept away with it...

And swept away I was *this* close to be when I woke up. Only to find a flooding, probably minor by comparison, from the handbasin in the lavatory this morning. And well, quite a few pair of shoes have been sort of hanging around there during the summer, since I think it's rather quintessential to have a selection of them ready to be spur of the moment selected when I'm going somewhere - as opposed to that very troublesome deed of getting them out of the closet, discard their able-shoeiness, trying another pair on and so on...

And look what that everyday torpidness got me, and them, a bunch of drenched unhappy ones imploring me to save them from the horrible death by drowning. Only but a few centimetres away. I do hope they haven't suffer any major damage, even if some of them are used by now...

After having dealt with that blinking handbasin and moped the floor as best I could I was off to see a long-time-no-see friend for lunch. One of my oldest friends, one which I also consider to be one of my closest. We met while studying Russian at Stockholm uni ages ago - then I went over to law, she to economics.

We see each other and talk on a very non-regular basis most of the time, but when we do meet up it feels like picking up the discussion where we left off yesterday. In many ways we are so very much alike, in others so not. She always has a very down to earth and refreshingly naughty way of seeing things. I have no clue whatsoever where she gets her ideas from, at all, and of course I'm just a prim little snow-white compared to her. Really.

Apart from almost always being able to make me blush, going from very literally green-eyed to feeling all blue-eyed and innocent, she's also one of those friends that most always leaves you with a smile on your lips and food for thought when saying goodbye. Even though we definitely don't agree on all topics and the way the senses and world works, it never hurts to ponder a bit over the things she flings out here and there...

The more tangible food we had while discussing major and minor life criseses was really awful though, I have no idea why it's so difficult for some restaurants to compose a decent selection of lunch dishes. If you're going to do it, do it right, put a little effort, good ingredients and care to it. If you can't, don't even bother... Won't be brightening that place with our presences ever again I'd say, and really, the name of the place is so laughingly tricksy, Gusto...

I Ponder

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I ponder, therefor I am. I wonder, what is a Languagemaster (Språkmästare)? It sounds frightfully interesting, I would so like to know! And, please, have a whole quarter too.
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Ah, simply an archaic word for teacher in foreign languages. Certainly an imagination stirring word...

Full moon in August

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I just discovered it's a full moon out there tonight - and it is at times like these I so wish for a better camera... Other wishes below the full moon shall remain secrets.

Am I the only one who use to wish things under the moon?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pitches in Scania, part II

Things rarely have a tendency to be short when I get my greedy little writing fingers on them, but I'll try and be as sweet as possible with this prequel on Scania. At the peninsula of Bjärehalvön - where part one took place - you'll also find the magnificent Hovs Hallar.
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And outside the town of Båstad - a place mostly known for the annual tennis championship and the *sort of* rowdy crowd hanging about there at that time - the magical gardens of Norrviken, since 2004 run by the talented, enigmatic Danish flower artist Tage Andersen. An absolutely delightful place - even if my gorgeous dahlia, bought there, didn't want to appear a second year... - enchanting like a mixture of Orlando and a Peter Greenaway film. A must visit!
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Also just outside Båstad is Solbackens Våffelbruk, a place that specializes in serving waffles and nothing else. It's charmingly tucked away in the lush hills overlooking the bay of Laholm. Let's just say that you pay for the amazing view and not for the amazing culinary experience...
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An amazing culinary experience we had our eyes set on though, when making reservations at Niklas i Viken - Niklas in the Bay, but Viken is also being the name of the village - , summer restaurant run by a Swedish TV-chef...

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The weather was grand - even though the ample photo opportunities where sort of damped due to the fact of really harsh winds that kept me all too busy trying to get control over the skirt who wanted to fly away to adventure of its very own... - the ambiance was unpretentiously lovely - IKEA cutlery, soda served in big wine glasses for example - the view from the outdoor veranda overlooking the bay and the harbour was to relish. Then came the food... And now I'm all out of sweet words;

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Ciabatta-style bread, probably, baked in muffin tins. Dry and even burnt. Served with olive oil and seasalt - the one and only time I've ever enjoyed only olive oil and herbs with bread was at Carrabbas in Orlando, Florida. There the food was made and served with knowledge and love. Other than that I really hate it when olive oil haphazardly is thought of as something as a delicacy to be liked by everyone all the time, and a naturally sub for butter. I do not want olive oil with my bread, I do not want olive oil at all, my tastebuds finds it repulsive.

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Charfilet with papardelle, saffron, capers, lettuce-onion and sugar peas - no sugar peas at all, instead tiny sour tomatoes, too much capers, too much bones in the fish, well a bit too much of everything and not enough of anything I guess. The saffron part was by far the best detail of that dish.

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This is what should have been a gooseberry pie - instead it was a cherry one... Served with absolutely flavourless pear marinated in, what was probably, basil and mint. Not what I consider a pie either, more like a dry piece of spongecake. The vanilla icecream was nice though.

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This was probably the best dish of them all - too bad it wasn't mine, and of course I'm just too wellbehaved to demand we change, um... - milkchocolate pannacotta with marinated cherries, granité and almondcrumbs.

And really, shouldn't every restaurant have one or two ciders on the menu, not only wine and beer...?

I can safely say we were far from impressed by that boosted place by the bay. But the village of Viken was just such a charming place with narrow streets and old houses. And perhaps some more un-boosted restaurants with far better food on offer...

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Neighbouring village of Viken is Domsten, even more delightful and jampacked with these typically picturesque Scania kind of houses. So adore them, wish I had one of my own, with cherry, plum, pear and apple trees and a rosegarden, with birds, bumblebees and butterflies... And a library and study overlooking the open fields, where I'd read and write and my heart would sing...

Before we'll take Öresundsbron - Öresunds bridge - over to Copenhagen, Denmark, I promise to tell you about a place you really shouldn't miss having a bit of food. Good value for money and oh my so tasty. Until then...

Thistle Days

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Some days are just thistle days, there are thoughts very eager to come out and play, but they struggle. Those days it's so very good to have friends in the similar situation to talk things through with...
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Sunday, August 26, 2007

WCB #116 - The Life of a Citycat

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It's not easy being a city-cat wanting to catch a bit of fresh air - especially since you're not even allowed out on a stroll in a leash. Though I applaud the fact that cats in that inner city neighbourhood of Stockholm apparently has moved up a notch and reached the status of a dog...
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WCB this time is kindly hosted by beautiful Orange one and Gray one at Belly Timber, come join!


I have a dream. Of course there are more than one dream in my life, small ones as well as the more overturning, life changing ones, but still this particular one I treasure in a very special way.

And no it isn't what *all* women supposedly dream about, a big white wedding with a happy-ever-after-seal to it. Oh, I'm sure many live and happily tell about that special day, and that's fine for them. But no, that kind of staged romance with a huge anticlimax is not for me, never has been, never will be. It's just not my disposition.

The dream I'm writing about is of a more private nature, I've only shared it with a few close friends, and I'm not going to reveal it here. It's not that it's a huge - well it is in a personal way I suppose - and strange dream, perhaps a dream difficult to obtain, but not a particularly odd one.
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I don't wander about wishing for it all the time, at all, but I do muse over it now and then. I don't think I'll brood myself grey over it if I never ever will catch that dream. At least I hope I won't, brood grey that is, since life has had so much more to offer in other ways. And this special dream of mine just isn't possible to gain by determination and hard work. It's more of the elusive, non-tangible, keep an open mind kind.

If one was a believer in astrology one might say that it's something that's written, or not, in the stars. But since I'm not much of a believer in that field I settle with ascertaining that it has something to do with life's serendipity and a dash of magic.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Last Day of Summer

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Today was suppose to be the very last day of summer, according to the forecasters. But since they're probably the very one occupational group I trust the least - runner up would presumably be politicians, and guess what, they've really brought that distrust on themselves, no matter what they say... - I don't much listen and believe.

But in *doubtful* case the forecasters are right for a change - even the sun has its spots - it was absolutely essential to say goodbye to summer in style aka have a last Toy Car outing. So here comes the picture cavalcade of this *last* day of summer 2007, from Toy Car point of view -
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Late, light sort of brunch at Länsmansgården - here comes a long translation of that word, Head-of-the-county-constabulary farmhouse - in Åkersberga.
Now run by the Åkersberga Garden Society and open weekends 12-16. I liked the place, kind of charming in an unpretentious non-grand way. Most certainly nothing like Vinterviken, neither food- nor flowerwise, but still lovely.
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Can you spot the wee one who just happen to pass by in the lower pic?
We continued to discover some new, and old, castles in the area. I'm a major castle buff - partly for business but mainly for pleasure, and really the less touristy the castle the better. Ruins can be quite wonderful to discover on your own, I so love hearing the wingbeats of history amongst the pieces left and envision times past...

- and apart from the major, well known castles in Sweden I've always missed the amplitude of castles in Scotland and England. Until this past year I guess, when somehow castles have had a tendency to emerge both here and there. Many of them now being used as conference facilities, schools, restaurants or golfclub-houses *the blasphemy!*
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Ekebyholms castle, now a non-conformist school, quite an eery place, really didn't like the feelings I got wandering about there...
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Rånäs slott, hotel and conference facilities, nearby there's also an old mill and Wallon-works
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Look at that grumpy old face on the little one - well, I guess it isn't much fun to be robbed of your legs, not being able to run and then forced to hold that silly miniature fountain over your head day in day out, year in year out...
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Some adorable ones resting beside the castle pond, the big one was really upset about being "disturbed", rather visible in his posture. But the most fun thing must definitely be the hairdo on the white one to the right, quite the peppy bird!
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Such a sprauncy looking stable building!
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Love these fields in August! Here's a picture with a field alike I so adore, so if you happen to drive past a field like this in the Stockholm vicinity spotting a lady in black with some red on the side it's probably me playing copycat...
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And then there was a castle ruin - Mörby castle, quite magical, had the wrong shoes and dress on for going exploring though...
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Right next to the fields in August and the castle ruin was lovely Fasterna church. The place felt so desolate, so very beautiful, so very contemplative...
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And a return visit to lovely Ekolsunds castle, which showed a certain nondescript enchanting glow in the late afternoon.
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And the perfect summer day round off must be a Greek salad dinner - though away with the olives!

How did you spend the supposedly last day of summer?
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